Is the camshaft being timed out?

The latest research program at the UK’s Brunel University may speed the replacement of conventional camshaft by electric actuators.

The development of electric vehicle motors, power controls and batteries tend dominate today’s industry’s headlines, but R&D of internal combustion engine technologies in its many forms continues. That is underlined by the UK’s Brunel University establishing a new future powertrain research program centring on intelligent valve technology and the eventual replacement of the conventional camshaft by electric actuators.

Brunel’s Centre for Advanced Powertrain and Fuels (CAPF) has installed Camcon Automotive’s SCI (Single Cylinder Intelligent Valve) technology development system (top), which the company regards as supporting upcoming emissions regulations and reducing ICE costs. CAPF Director, Prof. Hua Zhao, said of the potential for Camcon Automotive’s intelligent valve technology: “Its flexibility and superior controllability will enable the development of the next generation powertrain with very high efficiency, low carbon and zero environmental impact emissions.”

Operating on inlet and exhaust valves, the development system has been designed for R&D use by OEMs (JLR has been an R&D partner during Camcon Automotive’s work on it), as well as Brunel and other research institutes. Camcon Automotive partners with OEMs at the design stage and helps deliver its technology via Tier 1 suppliers.

“Intelligent Valve Technology (iVT) for researchers significantly reduces time needed for a series of experiments and improves the consistency of the results,” said Mark Gostick, Camcon Automotive’s COO. “Any valve event profile can be achieved and valve position can be monitored throughout the event using a bespoke sensor. It can mimic any valvetrain, enable on-the-fly cam changes and innovative combustion strategies.”

Event shaping
Gostick explained that the development system enables “event shaping”, facilitating the maximum opening point of the valve to be “skewed” within the event. Multiple events are facilitated in one cycle. “This allows extra exhaust events for HCCI  or CAI [Controlled Auto-ignition] combustion studies,” he said.

In effect, the single cylinder development system is designed to provide each valve with a digital camshaft of its own that can be changed from one firing stroke to the next, eliminating the need for an engine strip and rebuild, said Gostick, adding that acquisition of larger data sets facilitate more detailed response surfaces to be determined in a fraction of the time that a conventional single cylinder development program would take. The iVT system fitted to a 4-cylinder JLR Ingenium development engine installed in an unspecified demonstrator vehicle has successfully covered “many test miles” according to Camcon Automotive.

Gostick is confident that gasoline engines will continue to play a major part in future transport, notably in electrified hybrid powertrains: “For those applications, a smaller, more efficient, more comfortable engine is a must. Rapid, reduced-cost combustion development is absolutely key and we believe SCI will be crucial to continuing to unlock the further potential of the ICE. Reducing CO2 now – and other harmful emissions – is better than doing so in 2030.”

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